By Jeff Morris
For the second straight year, Ottawa Race Weekend has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And for the second straight year, Barrhaven runner Diana Devine is running a marathon on her own.
On Friday, Devine ran her 18th marathon. She set off from in front of her house early in the morning. She finished the 42.2-kilometre route in just over four hours, crossing a makeshift finish line to the cheers of her family.
“Running a lone marathon is so different,” said Devine, who works in the front office at St. Mother Teresa High School. “There is no one around, or no one running with you or against you. You can quit at any time, but you have to keep going. It takes a lot more grit to run one by yourself.”
Devine said she had to change up her route this year after struggling through the final stages of last year’s run.
“Last year, I just mapped out a route that was 20 km, and I ran there and back,” she said. “But coming back to Barrhaven on Cedarview Road, with that big hill before you get to Barrhaven, was really difficult.”
Her time last year was four hours and 12 minutes, which is about 10 minutes off her usual marathon time. This year, Devine mapped out a marathon route that along Cedarview Road, Hunt Club Road, Baseline Road, and Woodroffe Avenue. She wore a Garmin to track her route and monitor her distance covered. Unlike last year, she also ran with music in her earbuds to help her in the mental challenge of the run.
Running for Rico
While Devine is passionate about running marathons, even more important to her is the reason why she runs. Since 2007, she has run to raise money for an organization called Threads of Life. The charitable organization offers support and counseling for the families of victims of workplace tragedies. Devine has raised more than $35,000 for the charity. She set a goal for $2,500 this year.
Devine’s father passed away during a construction accident on Parliament Hill in 2005. Rico Ianucci, then a 65-year-old construction worker, was working on restoring the library on Parliament Hill. The backhoe he was driving suddenly switched into gear and fell off the cliff behind the library.
Devine was pregnant with her third child at the time.
“My father could have retired at any time, but he loved to work,” she said. “When it happened, it was a shock to us all.”
Devine, who ran her first marathon in 2007, said the charity has been remarkable in helping many families deal with tragedies. Each year, she wears a special t-shirt with her father’s picture on it and the slogan, “Running for Rico.” She has even worn cloth from his old shirts during the run.
“It’s been a great way to remember him,” she said. “Raising awareness for workplace accidents helps, because maybe you can reach someone who might become more conscious. You always hope you can reach people and maybe prevent an accident from happening.”
Devine said she likes running the marathon in April because of the weather. The Ottawa Race Weekend, which normally takes place in late May, often has heat and humidity as a condition the runners have to fight through. The marathon route also goes by the spot where her father lost his life.
“There is one stretch of the marathon route that goes by the spot where the accident happened,” she said. “It’s always very emotional for me when I go by there.”
Devine trained throughout the winter and spring for the marathon. She said she will only run a marathon once per year, and the solo marathon was it for 2021.
“I am going to rest a bit before I get back into running,” she said. “I will do the Voyageur Race Weekend, and I am going to relax.”
She said Friday’s run was a great way to pay tribute to her father. The National Day of Mourning for victims of workplace tragedies is April 28. The timing of an April run is meaningful for her.
“I think of my father when I run,” she said. “I have always had tremendous support from my family and from my co-workers and friends.”
To support Diana Devine in her goal to raise money for Threads for Life, go to stepsforlife.ca, and under the Donate button, search for Diana Devine.